Allied: a film fatale

Of the plethora of films released on Boxing Day, Allied was the one that I rushed out to see.  Not because of the tabloid rumours that had surrounded this movie’s release—the supposed love affair between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard behind the scenes that broke up Brangelina—but because of the incredibly tense and emotional trailer for the film.  If you haven’t seen the trailer for Allied, I would suggest that you avoid doing so before seeing the film.  If you haven’t seen Allied, perhaps even stop reading this review now, because the less you know about the film, the richer your experience will be.

In Allied, Brad Pitt plays wing commander Max Vatan, dropped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Casablanca for an undercover mission during World War II.  Already settled in Casablanca is Marian Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), a French resistance fighter who has infiltrated Nazi circles.  The pair of spies pretend to be married while working towards an anti-Nazi assignment, the chemistry proving too real as Vatan and Beauséjour fall in love, complete their mission, and return to London to be married.  It’s from about here where the film starts promising what is advertised in the trailer: two years on, Vatan is told by his superiors that Beauséjour—who now is his loving wife and mother of his child—may be a German spy.

The hook for this film is  the question: is Beauséjour a spy or not?  The tension in Allied certainly is palpable, from the ticking clock counting down to the attack in Casablanca to Vatan’s anxious behavior in the presence of his now suspected wife.  However I cannot help but feel as if the writer (Steven Knight) and director (Robert Zemeckis) nestled themselves between a rock and a hard place in terms of the believability and tautness in the film.  Allied can be divided into two halves: the action that takes place in Casablanca, and then the action that takes place in London.  Granted, it would be far too early to start questioning Beauséjour’s loyalty during the first half of the film, as Vatan does not yet trust her and she is not yet loved or even liked by the audience.  However, halfway through the film felt too late to bring in the central question of the drama, particularly as any audience member who has seen the trailer for the film already has reason to suspect Beauséjour.  Furthermore, because the central premise of the film relies on whether Beauséjour is a spy or not, it means that the ending is slightly anticlimactic.  There are, unfortunately, only so many possible outcomes when the central premise of a film is a closed question.

For its one glaring misstep, Allied makes one hundred more steps in the right direction.  Cinematographically, everything about this film is sensational: the set and location, the explosions, the special effects!  Vatan and Beauséjour make love in a car during a sunrise sand dune as the camera sweeps around them in a continuous 360 shot and it will make your head spin in the good kind of way.  An honorable mention must go towards the costume design in this film, particularly during the portion of the film set in Casablanca.  The costumes on Cotillard are period appropriate and also stunning and beautiful, worthy of a Golden Era Hollywood actress.  Another special mention must be given to Pitt, who speaks eloquently in French for a large portion of the film.  Celebrity culture makes audiences believe that we truly know celebrities themselves, which is why it is such a shock to suddenly see Brad Pitt speaking in French.  He did a remarkable job, and was even able to keep up with Cotillard, a French native.

Although I take issue with the premise of the film and the way in which it has been marketed, I urge you to go and see this film.  The chemistry between Vatan and Beauséjour is alive, interwoven with tension and suspicion.  Allied is visually spectacular and will leave you thinking—just don’t watch the trailer before you go.

Score: 7/10



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